The HR Robots are Coming!


My friends in human resources make fun of me when I write about how human resources will be automated. Many of them don’t believe they will be replaced by robots.

It turns out, the robots are already here.

It may take a little while to automate your local HR generalist who also assigns the spaces in your company parking lot, but the trend is here. And I am interested in how an increasingly automated society leaves more and more great people out of work.

Let’s take HR people. What do we do with that talented human resources professional who can’t find work? What do we do with a cadre of recruiters who no longer have to recruit?

Turns out, we don’t do much with those guys. They join an increasingly angry and conservative populous in America who ask questions that have already been answered by the robots.

  • Where are the jobs? With robots.
  • Where are the opportunities? They are few and far between in a consumer-based economy where a minority of people hold a majority of the wealth.
  • What happens to me? You hustle. You make do until you die. Try not to have any kids.

Some people say that robots and automation provide an opportunity for humans to create art. Turns out that robots do that, too.

When opportunity is scarce, people get angry and look for easy answers instead of addressing bigger societal issues. And as Tyler Cowen points out in the aforementioned article on how the robots are coming, anger is often misplaced. Envy and blame are local. The people who decided to automate your job will never be held accountable, but you will be angry at your neighbor who gets a promotion while you continue to look for a job.

So I just want you to start thinking about what part you play in the greater game of work and power. If you work in human resources, are you paying attention to automation? Are you thinking about how it might impact your role? Do you feel good about the way you’ve been asked to help define the future workforce of America?

Although the robots are here, we aren’t powerless. We don’t have to abdicate our freedom to people who make choices that benefit a small percentage of the population. And we can reclaim the conversation on work. I think HR can be a powerful force in this discussion.

Envy might be local, but you can start to change things by thinking bigger about work, money, power, and politics. And robots.

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